SLIMED! is a new (and, currently, the only) oral history of the BEST period of Nickelodeon, the First Network for Kids.
We spoke to more than 250 Nick VIPs to get the FULL story of the network and your favorite Classic Nick shows.
No. We didn't get Alanis Morissette from You Can't Do That on Television or Arlene Klasky from Rugrats. But we got, quite literally, everyone else.
Calm down. Seriously. We're sorry. We did the best we could here. Even the amazing SNL oral history didn't get Eddie Murphy. Here, have a cookie. Okay, now we can talk like friends.
Wow, what a journey it was to track everyone down for SLIMED!, especially since most people aren't exactly still working in "The Business" these days, so there wasn't always an agent or publicist to go to. And, hey, most of the time, we didn't even know who to talk to since, you know, no one has done a book like this before and the credits for the shows weren't always exactly extensive.
Point of story? Alanis' new album dropped right when we started interviewing folks, and we had a great relationship with her management ... but even THEY couldn't find where Alanis was jet-setting all over the world at the time. Heck, we even had a friend whose friend is an old boyfriend of Alanis try, but no go. Frankly, she was only on five episodes of YCDTOTV and we got what we needed about her from everyone else. And Arlene Klasky clearly doesn't like talking about the early years of Rugrats. We even spoke with her partner Gabor Csupo ... and former president of Nick Gerry Laybourne herself tried to get Arlene, but it didn't happen. If you can get her, go for it.
Fair enough. Good question. Have another cookie. When author Mathew Klickstein first started the book, he wanted to focus on the shows HE grew up with (those from the 80s and early 90s) because, well, those were the ones HE grew up with and all writers are solipsists. But over the course of his research and after speaking with the first VIPs of Nick he got in touch with, Mathew found that -- indeed -- there was something very special going on at Nick from around 1983 - 1995 (give or take a few years from each side). Namely, the network president at the time -- Ms. Gerry Laybourne -- and her team made Nick what it was during this, the "best" time. Plain and simple.
There are those who are a bit older and feel the Pinwheel years were the best (with shows you've probably never heard of before like Against the Odds and Lights Camera Action, etc.). But, those shows were really part of an earlier time for Nick so-called the "Green Vegetables" era where the parent company was using Nick as a loss leader to sell the Movie Channel (long story, perhaps will be released in a later edition of the book). Trust us here.
Meanwhile, there are those who feel the later years of Nick, with its iCarly and Hey Arnold and -- ich -- Dora and Airbender made up the Golden Age. Yes, it's all subjective, but the fact remains that without early game shows like Double Dare and Nick Arcade, there would be no Legends of the Hidden Temple and other later game shows. Double Dare established the look/feel/format of the shows and Nick Arcade and GUTS pioneered a lot of the technology. Without Roundhouse, there would have been no All That or other Nick variety shows. Without the original three Nicktoons -- Doug, Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy -- there would have been no Hey Arnold or even SpongeBob. Sorry, THIS part can't be denied.
That's why SLIMED! focused on this "foundational" shows of Nick, dealing with the series -- everything from the likes of You Can't Do That on Television (where green slime was invented), Mr. Wizard and Out of Control to later amazing shows like The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Salute Your Shorts -- that really made Nick what it was and, let's be honest, what it is today.
If you feel Nick's Golden Age should include other shows and other years, go write that book. Plenty of stories still ready to be told!
An oral history is a relatively new genre of literature that can be most closely likened to a "talking heads" documentary, transcribed and then consigned to print. Contemporary examples you may also want to check out include Please Kill Me (punk; considered by many to be the "Gold Standard" of oral histories), Live From New York (Saturday Night Live), Everyone Loves Our Town (grunge), Yes Yes Y'all (hip-hop) and Edie (Edie Sedgwick).
Mathew was definitely interested in also writing a kind of New Journalism Tom Wolfe version of the story of Nick, but the oral history genre has always intrigued him (both as a reader and as a documentary filmmaker) and he thought this would be the best way to tell the real story of Nick and its best shows ... from the mouths of the people who all made it happen.
It was a very interesting challenge to "write" (or "edit" or "curate"; it's all just semantics, ain't it?) an oral history. There were times when Mathew wanted to just SAY something, but instead had to find the exact wording in the thousands of pages of hundreds of interviews he personally conducted. Luckily, Mathew's long history of documentary filmmaking served him (and hopefully the readers) well in constructing not only a smooth-flowing and accessible oral history that is more than just a disparate hodgepodge of quotes ... but also one that (like Nick) pioneered a whole new way of going about doing things.
In SLIMED!, rather than simply going the chronological route or focusing each chapter on a different show, Mathew broke the book up into chapters that together deconstruct Nick and bring out why it was important -- with elements of changing diversity/gender perspectives, invoking new concepts in irreverence and sloppy messiness ("for kids"), what it was like to grow up on the network, how/why the network changed over the years and more.
A big advantage of an oral history is also that multiple perspectives -- even those that conflict -- on a particular scenario can be expressed. Not too surprisingly, some of the stories that came out of Mathew's extensive research and interviews weren't always consistent among the interviewees. By creating an oral history, Mathew was able to allow all sides of these (sometimes extremely contentious) stories to at last see the light of day. So you may have one person saying, "Hey, it happened like THIS," and another saying, "No, it happened like THAT.' This "multi-tracked" method of singular storytelling allows for, possibly, a more truthful and intimate telling of the hundreds of anecdotes in SLIMED!.
So, yeah: You're welcome.
There are. Some pretty cool ones, too. Oh, and in addition to the great pics we were able to include in SLIMED!, there's also a super-fantastic foreword by none other than Marc Summers himself and a special message at the end by Artie the Strongest Man in the World (seriously!).
Not at all. Nickelodeon NOW has little to nothing to do with Nickelodeon THEN (the time about which the book was written). It's a totally different group of people running Nickelodeon these days.
Absolutely! Another reason we didn't involve Nick (now) in the book production is that we wanted to be able to tell ALL the stories we wanted, even those that might be a little darker and more difficult to swallow.
SLIMED! is definitely a fun and nostalgic celebration of a collection of shows and of some amazing people ... but we were VERY fortunate to have all these folks be totally intimate and forthright with us in revealing some pretty shocking truths about just what went on behind the scenes. WHAT kinds of shocking truths, you ask? Duh: Read the book.
First off, there's also an audiobook version performed by award-winning audio book reader Nick Podehl.
Second off, the Kindle edition is great, too, but really, folks, let's be honest here: Buy the hardcover. Support your local bookstore. Get the real book. When you read off of a black, monolithic Kindle, no one knows what you're reading. But the cover to SLIMED! is so eye-catching that folks will come up to you and go, "Wow! What is that book?" And then you'll talk with them and make a new friend. And sell a few more books for us. Keep it analog.
Sure. What made Nickelodeon so special during the "Gerry Laybourne Years" is that the people who made the network so fantastic and the shows so wondrous during this time were/are VERY smart and funny, articulate and interesting people. Across the board (yes, even the actors).
So, even if you didn't watch or could care less about Nick back in the day, you will still dig on SLIMED! as a well-constructed collection of fascinating and humorous stories about everything from the act of artistic creation, to growing up in Modern Culture, to why farting/burping is so funny, to how cartoons are made, and beyond. Just check it out. It even has a flip book on the side margin (another reason to get the hardcover).
Pretty much anywhere. Both IRL and online.
That's not a question. It's a lazy complaint.
As with most contemporary oral histories, the extensive bios making up our "Cast of Characters" are there in the back of the book where it belongs. Some oral histories choose to identify the interviewee with a distracting, lengthy parenthetical during the first usage, but most do not. It disrupts the flow of the narrative and in the case of SLIMED!, so many people at Nick did so many different things, it would be nearly impossible to list every single thing in that first usage (that's why we save it for the bios in the back).
Heaven forbid you actually have to learn something from reading a book. Just as you may need a Dictionary (at first) to read Ulysses and the glossary (also in the back) to read A Clockwork Orange, yes (at first) you will likely need to use the Cast of Characters to know who people are while reading SLIMED!. But after a short while, you'll know who we're talking about and then, BOOM, you're fine.
We also meticulously made sure that each time a new person is introduced, the show he/she was on is mentioned in the quote itself to keep the reading easy and fun. Don't worry. And don't be lazy. Or a whiny little bitch. Thanks! Here's another cookie.
The hat's a simple one. Older folks may remember the classic "Nickelodeon painter's hat" that was worn by Nick crew and contestant winners. Yes, that is a real-deal vintage Nickelodeon painter's hat from Back in the Day. Came from Nick's first Creative Director, Mr. Scott Webb (read more about him and his adventures in SLIMED!). Want to know how to get an original Nick painter's hat yourself? Simple! Just write a book about Nickelodeon.
And two: Good second part of the question! Mathew Klickstein's shirt exhibits a Kids of Widney High logo. The KOWH is a rock band based out of Los Angeles comprised of musicians with developmental disabilities. Mathew has worked with the Kids for more than a decade, loves their music and continues to develop projects with them. You can see more about the KOWH at www.KidsOfWidneyHigh.com and/or via the AUTHOR section of this website (HINT: Check them out!).
Mathew has worked in film, television and journalism for more than half his life, and he's gotten quite adept at tracking people down via various resources, particularly "active" interviewees who tend to have agents, managers, publicists, etc. It's much easier than most people would think. Unfortunately, most people just never give it a shot.
This is actually quite a bone of contention for Mathew, who's become rather disappointied with how many pop culture journalists, bloggers and the like (even at some of the "bigger" sites) rarely attempt to incorporate interviews in their features and blogs about shows, movies, music, etc. Readers end up with tendentious screeds about that writer's wholly subjective preconceptions as opposed to a substantial piece of reportage.
In starting with some of the more high-profile names (via the aforementioned agents/publicists/managers) who loved the idea of the book, Mathew was able to gain their support in getting in touch with certain others. And they loved the idea of the book because many saw this as a way to finally get the record straight about many of their stories, lives and television shows. Finally, someone was taking Nickelodeon seriously enough to actually ask THEM about their stories!
As for the people not in the business anymore, there were quite a lot of hoops to jump through. Each person made for a different challenge. But, as Aaron Eckhart says to his son in "Thank You For Smoking" when the boy asks how his father became a lobbyist: "I just figured it out."
A specific example would be the case of "You Can't Do That on Television" star Alasdair Gillis. After doing all that could be done to track him down, someone mentioned that a person in a YouTube video playing music at a bar somewhere in Canada looked a little like Alasdair. Mathew looked into it and the musician did greatly resemble Alasdair. Mathew called the bar and they revealed that Alasdair and his brother play there pretty regularly.
They didn't know how to get in touch with Alasdair, but they did have the contact information for Alasdair's brother, who was nice enough to speak with Mathew. He then connected Mathew with Alasdair, and there we go. Imagine having to do that kind of thing nearly 250 times. It was extremely challenging, but, as Kant says, "I can, because I must!"
To answer your next question, yes, Mathew can help you get in touch with hard-to-find Nickelodeon personnel. BUT, most folks are private individuals and thus your information will be sent to them first so they can decide whether they want to speak with you for your interview, article, feature, fan club, convention, reunion, etc. Regardless of your outlet or purpose, Mathew will NEVER give out personal/contact information for any of his interviewees.
And, please, with all of this made clear, give credit where credit is due and make sure to save a little space in your article etc. to mention SLIMED!. We're all in this together!
He's just that fucking good.
For the most part, yes. Of course, since we spoke with nearly 250 people, we couldn't include EVERYONE'S "Where are they now" information. If we tried, that's all the book would be!
But never fear: You definitely get a good cross-section. And you'll be surprised where some folks ended up!
Mathew Klickstein may be an asshole sometimes, but he's no liar. He has PLENTY more SLIMED! for you and, yes, it's likely we'll be releasing supplemental material soon. So stay tuned. Here, have another ... Wait, no, you've had way too many cookies already. Go out and play. Seriously. Off the computer. Go get some much-needed exercise and fresh air.